Effects of Travel Time on Healthcare Utilization

Rosanna Johed , University of Oslo, department of economics
Kjetil Telle, Statistics Norway

It is well documented that patients with a long travel time to health care tend to utilize the services less than patients close-by. To the extent that this variation is unwarranted, it involves over- or underutilization and thus excessive costs and possibly deteriorated health. Using individual-level data of the entire Norwegian population for a decade, we calculate the exact travel time from each inhabitant's home to the office of its assigned general practitioner (GP). First, we confirm that patients with a long travel time visit the GP less than patients living close-by. Second, we estimate the causal effect of travel time on utilization, relying solely on plausibly exogenous variation in the travel time from annual improvements in roads from 2010 to 2017. For the general population, we estimate precise zero-effects of travel time on utilization. For some sub-groups, like people receiving disability pensions or living far away from the services, our estimates suggest modest effects of longer travel time on reductions in utilization. Overall, though, our preliminary results suggest that further centralization of GP services would have limited impacts on utilization.

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 Presented in Session 92. Healthcare Screening and Utilization